Culture Is the Missing Link

by Van Andruss and Eleanor Wright

This piece was originally published in Home! A Bioregional Reader, edited by Van Andruss, Christopher Plant, Judith Plant, and Eleanor Wright, New Society Publishers, copyright 1990.

We are children of the green globe

We say we are children of the green globe, living things upon the planet. The fact inspires us with a sort of pride. The theory of evolution is our genesis story. It places our feet on the ground. The perspectives of biology comprise our metaphysics. Our philosophy thrives on the prospect that all things move, change, flow in Cosmos. Change flows through us and all around us, and we are changing too. This is the cosmic situation in which all animals carry out their habits of adaptation, including ourselves.

We are animals

For pre-historic folks, probably the issue never came up, whether they were to regard themselves as animals or not. And in civilized times the question only really surfaced in the last century. Since Darwin, the answer has been yes, we are animals. We are one species among millions on earth. We are planetary beings, of the order of primate.

We are social animals

We were together even in the trees. Later, out on the savannas we moved in bands, gathering and hunting. We hung out around the campfire, at peace with one another, in harmony with our environment. Bodies close, we sat gazing into the fire, safe in our togetherness. We talked of the life that was common to us, told stories recounting the ways of a people, passing on wholeness.

We are cultural animals

Wholeness or organization is a feature of all living forms. In an anthropological view, culture was the whole form of the human being. It spanned the generations. It was the self-governing, adaptive unit. It was an organized set of customs, an integrated way of life in which the aims of the group and the selves of the group became one. Despite its shortcomings, it was the original appropriate society.

We lost our cultures

Civilization destroyed original cultures and their ecologies. So what’s to be done? We can’t go back. We must go ahead. We have to invent the human groups which can adapt to these present circumstances.

We will build new cultures

We need to recreate the conditions of organization that produce whole humans; get behind the process, and do it consciously. Our method is social. We get together with others who are searching for an alternative to industrial civilization, and who perceive the power of society to reorganize itself. We agree to undertake a conscious experiment: try out living together in one place, a quiet place, where thought can go on, care can go on (with or without a culture, the self needs a home).

Sharing a global perspective, and using the method of inquiry, we try to create a new culture that is adaptive to this particular time and place on the planet. We offer the hope that others could do this too. Small society provides the means to restore ourselves to each other and to Nature.

First published in The Catalyst, April-May, 1984.

Van Andruss is a publisher, editor, and grassroots democracy activist in Yalakaom Valley, British Columbia. He is the former owner of Macleod’s Books in Vancouver. He’s publisher and editor of Lived Experience, a journal of writers from British Columbia which has released annual issues since 2001.

Liked it? Take a second to support Quinn Collard on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!